Doc: Patients Need to Be Seen to Get Pot Prescriptions?
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Doc: Patients Need to Be Seen to Get Pot Prescriptions?

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Although most doctors at least theoretically subscribe to the professional credo “First Do No Harm” when treating patients, a Denver family physician apparently decided to instead adopt “It’s All About The Benjamins” as his guiding principle when he began his medical marijuana practice a few years back. Like so many of his prescription pad happy brethren, Dr. Lenny Sujdak was apparently putting dollar signs before his medical ethics when he admitted to dispense 7,057 medical marijuana recommendations over a one-year period without actually seeing most of those patients. And at $100 a pop for a recommendation, that translates into over $700,000 per year, which certainly beats the hell out of treating snotty nosed kids with the flu.

He Must Be Really Good at Exams

Assuming that he kept regular Monday through Friday office hours (with a two-week vacation), that would mean he saw an average of about 28 patients per day in addition to his family practice. Under Colorado law, doctors must have a “bona fide” relationship with patients to whom they recommend marijuana and that the recommendation must come after a thorough physical exam. Which, unless there was some sort of a mass production conveyer belt for stoners in his office, seems highly unlikely.

Adult Swim is on…Uh, I Mean My Back Hurts

The way that the system works in Colorado (and other states) is this: If a doctor identifies cannabis as a potential treatment for a disease or illness for their patients, he is authorized to write a medical marijuana recommendation to alleviate symptoms for diseases such as AIDS, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy and glaucoma (or in Dr. Sujdak’s case, as an enhancement to the Cartoon Network). The good doctor’s medical license was placed on probation for five years in June after a hearing, which bans him from writing medical marijuana recommendations during that time. More recently, he and his former (and since retired) nurse Debra Gady were brought up on two felony counts each of forging public documents and attempting to influence a public servant (the state of Colorado) by allegedly selling pre-signed approval medical marijuana forms.

The World’s Most Fun “Medical Conference”

The scene of the crime for those transactions is one of the things that probably make the skeptics snicker a little at the medical marijuana movement: Hempcon. While Hempcon is billed as “America’s Largest Cannabis Industry, Health, Lifestyle & Culture Event of the Year” and it offers seminars led by “industry leaders, advocates, and attorneys,” even its own website makes it look more like a bakehead festival than a medical conference. There’s a photo of a half dozen women in bikinis and “Sexy Nurse” Halloween costumes prominently displayed on the home page for the events. And there’s also a competition for the best strains of weed (the Hempcon Cup), for which “Purple Coma” and “Alpha Medic” took home the top prize in the “Sativa” category, for those of you keeping score at home.

And while it sounds really fun, the Hempcon event organizers don’t make a very serious-sounding case for marijuana as a legitimate medicine as say, the upcoming 6th International Conference on Fixed Combination in the Treatment of Hypertension, Dyslipidemia and Diabetes Mellitus folks do (although I’d still rather go to Hempcon, even sober).

According to their website, Hempcon events feature hundreds of cannabis exhibitors including “dispensaries, collectives, caregivers, and state of the art glass and grow products and on site medical marijuana evaluations,” which is how Dr. Sujdak and Nurse Gady got into trouble. Rick Sallinger, a reporter at the Denver CBS affiliate KCNC, learned that Gady allegedly sold a North Metro Drug Task Force undercover official a doctor’s marijuana recommendation for $100 at Hempcon. Sallinger reported that the Colorado Nursing Board disciplinary records claim that Gady forged Sujdak’s name on the recommendations after performing the “exams” herself at Hempcon. My guess is that her exams consisted largely of asking people if they like getting high, and if they answered, “Yes,” then they got a prescription.

Besides losing his right to write medical marijuana recommendations, Sujdak was ordered to undergo ethics training back in June, and with the new charges, he and Nurse Gady now face the possibility of going to prison. If he’s convicted and jailed, let’s hope that he won’t need medical marijuana for what ails him while he serves his time since the regimen has not yet been approved for correctional institutions.

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About Author

Johnny Plankton is the pseudonym for a freelance business and comedy writer/editor (and recovering alcoholic) who lives in Boston. He is also a grateful member of America’s largest alcohol recovery “cult” as well as Al-Anon.